Soni Wins 100m Breast World Title
July 28, 2009
During a 2009 FINA World Championships in which upsets have been the norm while many a favorite has missed the podium over the first three days, 2009 USC graduate Rebecca Soni lived up to her billing and won her first world title in the 100-meter breaststroke on Tuesday (July 28) in Rome.
A day after breaking the world record in the event with a 1:04.84 and becoming the first woman to go under 1:05, Soni, as the event's top seed, won gold with a 1:04.93. Though just off her world standard, it was more than a half second ahead of second-place Yuliya Efimova of Russia (1:05.41). Soni's American teammate Kasey Carlson won bronze (1:05.75).
'The 100 has been a rising event for me,' said Soni, who won silver in the race at the 2008 Olympics. 'I never thought of myself as a 100 swimmer. It's unbelievable for me to be sitting here as the 100 winner.'
Soni established herself as the preeminent 200m breast swimmer when she won gold and broke Australian Leisel Jones' world record a the 2008 Olympics. While Jones has taken 2009 off from swimming, Soni has risen past her and now reigns as the world's fastest breaststroker in both events.
She'll get a chance to prove it again on Thursday with the preliminaries and semifinals of the 200m breast. The final of the event is on Friday. She will also swim on America's 4x100m medley relay on Saturday.
After breaking the 100m breaststroke world record Monday in the semifinals, Soni told reporters one reason she has beaten the post-Olympics lull that often strikes Olympians is that she returned to USC for her senior year, which kept her competitive juices flowing.
Soni's 2008-2009 senior season featured her fifth and sixth NCAA titles as she became the first NCAA woman to win the 200y breast four times. Prior to that, she won her fifth and sixth Pac-10 titles (third apiece in the 100y and 200y), setting an American record in the 200y (2:04.75) and an NCAA record in the 100y (58.10).
NOTES: Hayley McGregory, who had a brief USC career and was Soni's teammate for one season, finished sixth in the final of the 100m back (59.42).